Monthly Archives: September 2015

William McGonagall

William McGonagall

Today is the 113th anniversary of the death of William McGonagall. I marked this date last year as well. William McGonagall is widely remembered as the worst poet ever to have written in English. I mark his death date rather than his birthday because nobody really knows when his birthday is, owing to the fact that he recorded several different dates in his various pieces of autobiographical writing. Each new autobiography he released featured more extravagant fictions than the last including standing ovations, commendations from the queen, and even a very elegant and slick fight with a group of would-be muggers.

He really was a very bad poet and his poetry, which can be found here is very amusing to read. However, as you journey back into his life, a truly tragic figure emerges. William McGonagall worked as a weaver until he was 50 when his family was hit hard by poverty. He claimed to have been suddenly inspired to write poetry and began sending his efforts in to a local paper which turned him into a minor local celebrity owing to how utterly ridiculous and appalling the poems were.

Driven by seemingly psychotic delusions about the quality of his writing and an obliviousness to mockery and criticism, he toured the country, reading to the public. He was met with sarcasm, ridicule, rudeness, and even violence. On one occasion, some particularly cruel pranksters convinced him that a famous poet had written to him expressing a desire to tour together. William McGonagall was extremely gullible and excitedly agreed to a meeting. Upon arrival he was heartlessly strung along until the pranksters could no longer keep straight faces and the penny finally dropped.

He was a poor man fighting to provide for his wife and children and so, while his poetry is hilariously dreadful, I will always have soft spot for McGonagall and remember him with respect for his dedication to his family and his strong morality. Poor, poor mad McGonagall.

I have written another poem, imitating his unique style, in tribute to the late, great poet and tragedian William Topaz McGonagall.

William McGongall

I hope others think it really grand
That I can write this lay by hand
Thanking this Scottish poet, by the name of William McGonagall
For writing poetry for us all
And even when I grow old
My pen will always sing his praise
In many different ways

His wild hair and strange stories
Would greatly please everyone, be they liberals or tories
Observational poetry was his apparent gift
And in his poems, of metaphors there is certainly no thrift
And though one day I will grow old
My pen will always sing his praise
In many different ways

On 29th September, in the city of Edinburgh, in the year of 1902
The world lost a Scottish poet, Yes it’s true
And though 113 years have passed since that tragedy came to have passed
The wounds it left will not be healing very fast
And should, like him, I get to grow old
My pen will always sing his praise
In many different ways

And if, William, others don’t understand
Why I profess that your poetry is really grand
I will tell them to read Poetic Gems for themselves
For joy cannot escape the man who into your poetry delves
Perhaps my hand will tremble, William, when I grow old
But my pen will always sing your praise
In many different ways

This biography is the most beautiful to be seen

This biography is the most beautiful to be seen

Flying Ants

Flying Ants

I could pretend that they’re is some kind of deep message buried in the depths of the intellectual imagery of this poem, but I would be lying. In all honesty, this is another foul, odorous cloud of rubbish, rising from the fetid depths of the I-was-very-tired-and-possibly-slightly-delirious-when-I-wrote-this vault.

Flying Ants

Flying ants
Flow from pants
Their minds devoid of thought or reason

Flying aunts
Hypnotic dance
To welcome in the harvest season

I hadn't ant-icipated how difficult it would be to get a clear photo for this post.

I hadn’t ant-icipated how difficult it would be to get a clear photo for this post.

Too Few Words

Too Few Words

For the last of the September sonnets, I’d like to present you with a word sonnet. Word sonnets are the most unusual form of sonnet I’ve come across. They’re quite a recent creation and, rather than featuring fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter, they actually consist of only fourteen words. The aim is to try and pack all of the punch of another kind of sonnet into a much shorter space.

My attempt is probably not particularly inspiring or original but, I have to admit, I’m quite pleased with the concept and the execution of it.

Too Few Words

There
Are
Too
Few
Words
In
The
World
To
Say
How
Much
I
Love

Not even this is sufficiently suffused with sayings to strengthen my sonnet

Not even this is sufficiently suffused with sayings to strengthen my sonnet

Fruit Seller

Fruit Seller

This poem grew out of a doodle I drew in a lecture during my first year of university and is one of my earlier efforts. The picture was of a many-armed being holding out various kinds of fruit. Unfortunately, I seem to have thrown the doodle away so the picture for this post is completely different.

Fruit Seller

Fruit seller, fruit seller
Day job for a fortune teller
Which fruit you get will depend
On how your sorry tale will end

Fruit seller, fruit seller
Quite a cryptic fortune teller
Hard to tell what he forsees
When everyone gets strawberries

What does it mean? I can't pear not knowing!

What does it mean? I can’t pear not knowing!

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

Following on in September’s sonnet series, we now come to the Petrarchan sonnet which is quite different from the two previous sonnets I have posted. Whilst it is still written in iambic pentameter, the structure has changed. Rather than three quatrains and a couplet, we have one octave (eight line verse) and a sestet (six line verse). The rhyming structure for the octave is usually a-b-b-a-a-b-b-a. Typically, the sestet follows either c-d-e-c-d-e or c-d-c-d-c-d. For this poem, I have chosen the former.

I have something of a phobia when it comes to swimming. Being in water is distinctly uncomfortable and upsetting for me and I find deep water utterly terrifying and disturbing. I can trace this phobia back to a particular day in the year of 2012. I was travelling around Europe with some friends and we stopped in Slovenia near a stunning lake named Lake Bled. It really was one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen so we went for a swim.

A few metres out, the bed of the lake suddenly plummeted to a great depth. I found myself almost paralysed with fear then, without knowing what happened in between, I was crawling up the bank breathless and shaking. That afternoon, I stupidly agreed to go swimming again and had another panic attack when a very large fish brushed passed my legs. Later, back in my room, I had a vivid flashback and fell over. How dramatic! These experiences have been condensed for the sake of concision (severely lacking in this introduction) in this sonnet.

Lake Bled

We swaggered through the bright Slovenian heat
Some days into our European break
From Castle Hostel, out towards the lake
The water gently lapping at our feet
Lured into depths by cunning and deceit
And glancing down, a terrible mistake
A giant fish, more than my mind could take
It pushed my legs then vanished into peat

Still screaming as I staggered up the bank
And trembling for hours after that
Not caring that my friends thought me insane
I pondered just how deep I nearly sank
Collapsed into a heap and, laying flat
I swore that I would never swim again

Terrifyingly beautiful

Terrifyingly beautiful

The Curry

The Curry

For the second sonnet of September, I am posting a Spenserian sonnet. These are very similar to Shakespearean sonnets like the one I posted last week in that they are written in iambic pentameter and consist of three quatrains (four lined verses) and a couplet (though the structure can, of course, be varied). The main difference is in the rhyme structure. Whereas a Shakespearean sonnet follows the structure a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g, a Spenserian sonnet follows the structure a-b-a-b, b-c-b-c, c-d-c-d, e-e. It’s all quite fascinating.

The story of this poem is a trip I made to an Indian restaurant in Tooting a few weeks ago with my friends. The food was delicious but all too plentiful. We left feeling rather bloated.

The Curry

Just through the door my nostrils burned with spice
And beautiful aromas filled the air
A plan was made to order pilau rice
Samosas, bhajis, and king prawns to share

I tucked into my meal without a care
And drank a double stout to wash it down
We heartily agreed the price was fair
But, one by one, each smile became a frown

My chicken ceylon, beautiful and brown
Was quite enough, my hunger for to quell
But with each dish that came, we went to town
Then left the table feeling quite unwell

I knew as I stepped out that I would rue
Ending the meal with half a sag aloo

The curry consumer's cushioned companion.

The curry consumer’s cushioned companion.